Italian protester climbs down from St Peter's Basilica in Rome

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 02, 2012 7:34 PM
Italian protester climbs down from St Peter's Basilica in Rome

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - An Italian beach bar owner who climbed onto the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome to protest against plans to open up the country's seafront business sector to more competition came down on Wednesday after a 24-hour protest.

Marcello Di Finizio, sometime owner of a business that rents out umbrellas and lounge chairs to sunbathers, leapt over railings near the top of the 137 meter (450 feet) high dome on Tuesday afternoon before abseiling down to a ledge over a window in the cupola.

He then unfurled a hand painted sign reading: "Help! Enough with (Prime Minister Mario) Monti, Enough with Europe, Enough with Multinationals!"

After coming down on Wednesday he said he would shortly hold a meeting with Tourism Minister Piero Gnudi to discuss the reason for his protest - anger at European Union rules that mean existing concessions to manage stretches of beachfront in Italy will be auctioned off from 2016.

"I really hope it's over now and we can start again with our small firms and get the economy started again," he told reporters and a small crowd of supporters.

"Something which has really struck me throughout this whole carry on is that I've asked for a meeting with the minister very politely many times and I've always run into a rubber wall," he said.

Di Finizio's protest was a microcosm of the deep-seated opposition Prime Minister Mario Monti faces as he seeks to overhaul an economy that has long been tightly controlled by special interest groups.

The auction move has been bitterly opposed by the beach clubs which control access to some of Italy's most popular beaches and which rent out the umbrellas and sun loungers favored by many Italian beachgoers.

New rules will limit the length of the licenses and put existing concessions up for auction, a change which operators say will penalize them and leave them out of pocket for the investments they have made.

They say the auctions will favor foreign multinationals over smaller local businesses.

(Reporting By Antonio Denti; Editing by Andrew Osborn)